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Portland welcomes a new athletic director, Rob O’Leary, and expects to compete in several sports this fall. A year ago, football just missed out on its first state final since 2002 and this season, the Bulldogs are primed to go all the way. Boys’ soccer reached the regional final last autumn and also has a chance to bring home some hardware. The girls’ team ended a playoff drought in 2013 and has its sights set on a winning record and a longer postseason stay this time around. Field hockey could be a surprise team that could reach the playoffs. Both cross country squads are hopeful of qualifying for states. Golf will be in the hunt. Volleyball is new this fall and will play a junior varsity schedule under coach Joe Russo in preparation of becoming a varsity sport in 2015.
COACH: Jim Hartman (third year, 14-6 overall record)
2013 record: 8-2 (Lost, 22-19, to Cheverus in Western A Final)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Jeremiah Copeland (Senior), Dominic Dimillo (Senior), Domenic Fagone (Senior), Jordan Floridino (Senior), Alex Oja (Senior), Ryan Ruhlin (Senior), Cedric Smith (Senior), Josh Sullivan (Senior), Jordan Talbot (Senior), Stephen Walsh (Senior), Joe Esposito (Junior), Austin Phillips (Junior)
PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 6 @ Cheverus, Sept. 12 DEERING, Sept. 26 BANGOR, Oct. 11 @ Windham, Oct. 17 LEWISTON, Oct. 25 @ SP
COACH’S COMMENT: “We have a bulls-eye on our backs this year. We have some holes to fill, but we have some extremely talented kids who can step up, which is nice. We’ll have to find our way. Our backs haven’t had many varsity carries. We’ll be very strong on defense. Our line is very good. Special teams will be a positive. Our goal is to win that Gold Ball.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Portland just missed an opportunity to win a Gold Ball in 2013, letting a halftime lead slip away in an agonizing playoff loss at Cheverus. The program then bid adieu to its three biggest playmakers: Ronald Hargrove (507 yards and four TDs), Jayvon Pitts-Young (394 rushing yards, five TDs) and Fitzpatrick Trophy finalist and PHS Fall Male Athlete of the Year Justin Zukowski, who ran for 1,531 yards and 19 scores in the regular season, then added six TDs in the playoffs.
While those losses are enormous, many other pieces remain in place, especially on the line. While rival Cheverus is starting over in the trenches, the Bulldogs certainly appear to have an advantage there. The line is anchored by Copeland, Dimillo, Sullivan and Walsh. The offense is in good hands with Talbot, a league all-star last season, who rushed for 462 yards and eight touchdowns and threw for 448 yards and 13 scores. He’ll play an even bigger role in a spread offense this time around, with his arms and his legs. Looking to replace the departed backs will be Esposito (69 yards on 10 rushes in limited action last fall), Oja (61 yards and a TD on four attempts in 2013) and Fagone. If Portland turns into Air Hartman, then Floridino, Phillips and Ruhlin figure to put up some big numbers. Junior Dan Marzilli, a transfer from Deering, will also be in the offensive mix. Talbot will punt, while junior John Williams does the placekicking. Williams was 25 of 27 on PATs in 2013..
On defense, Smith joins Copeland (38 tackles and a fumble recovery in 2013), Dimillo, Ruhlin (30 tackles and 1.5 sacks last fall) and Sullivan on the line. The linebacking corps features Esposito (who had 57 tackles a year ago) and Marzilli and the secondary appears solid courtesy Fagone, Oja (34 tackles last fall) and sophomores Nate Archambault and Dylan Bolduc.
The Bulldogs haven’t beaten Cheverus since 2009 and will likely need to do so this fall to get to where they want to go. Portland opens at the Stags Saturday and there’s a good chance the teams will square off again in November in the postseason. By then, the Bulldogs might just be the favorites. This group has what it takes to win the school’s first title since 2002.
COACH; Rocco Frenzilli (28th year, 193-166-40 overall record)
2013 record: 12-3-2 (Lost, 4-0, to eventual state champion Scarborough in Western A Final)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Jonathan Bobe (Senior), Connor Bruce (Senior), Haron Habibzai (Senior), Bobby Brittingham (Junior), Oliver Brochu (Junior), Sam Farr (Junior), Josh Irving (Junior), Erick Molina (Junior), Tim Baker (Sophomore), Alex Frank (Sophomore)
PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 9 SCARBOROUGH, Sept. 12 @ Deering, Sept. 16 NOBLE, Sept. 25 @ Cheverus, Oct. 2 SP, Oct. 7 @ Gorham
COACH’S COMMENT: “We have a lot of fresh faces and eager kids who want to continue a nice tradition here. I look forward to watching these guys develop as players and young men. We want to improve from game to game and play our best soccer in mid-October. I’m excited.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Portland enjoyed a terrific season a year ago, knocking off Scarborough in the regular season, then enjoying a run to just its second regional final this century before losing to the eventual champion Red Storm. Several members of that squad have departed (including all-state selection Yusuf Yama), but the Bulldogs return a lot of talent and have to be viewed as a team that can make another deep run, perhaps even deeper than a year ago.
The offensive attack figures to be balanced. Farr, a captain and reigning SMAA second-team all-star, who scored 10 times and added four assists last fall, Habibzai, who had five goals in 2013, Bobe, Portland’s Spring Male Athlete of the Year, senior D.J. Cooper and a couple transfers: Matt Alvarez, a junior from Deering, and Brady Cyr, a junior from South Portland, will look to tickle the twine. Junior Panel Bobe and freshman Quinn Clarke hope to work their way into the rotation up front. Key midfielders to watch include Irving (six assists last season), Molina and Will Sarvis and Henry Stoddard and junior Wade Faria. The defense returns the veterans Brochu (an honorable mention all-star last season) and Bruce, senior Jack Schwartz, as well as Baker and Frank, who played key roles as freshmen. That group looks to fill the shoes of reigning league Defensive Player of the Year Ek Bakunda, who graduated. Brittingham returns in goal and is one of the best in the league. He’ll be spelled at times by senior Andrew Hoekstra.
Portland proved a year ago that it could get the job done in big games. In a season where the league appears balanced, the Bulldogs are in a great position to do well again. If this group comes along as expected, it should have a good playoff seed and might just be able to play into November and perhaps finally secure that elusive first state championship.
COACH: Arthur Mosen (third year, 7-18-4 overall record)
2013 record: 5-8-2 (Lost, 2-0, to Biddeford in Western A preliminary round)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Madison Bolduc (Senior), Rachel Glover (Senior), Claire Kirby (Senior), Oriana Smith (Senior), Jess Wolfe (Senior), Chessa Hoekstra (Junior), Isabel Stehli (Junior), Kate Johnson (Sophomore)
PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 9 @ Scarborough, Sept. 12 @ Deering, Sept. 27 CHEVERUS, Oct. 4 SP, Oct. 7 GORHAM, Oct. 10 @ McAuley, Oct. 18 WINDHAM
COACH’S COMMENT: “We continue to improve each season and getting to the playoffs last year was a huge victory for the program. We want to go at least one step further this year in the tournament and I think we have the players to help us get there. The core of the team has been together now for three or four years and they’re very in tune with each other on and off the field. I think we’ll see a group of players who enjoy playing with one another and that chemistry will keep us heading in the right direction.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Portland made nice strides last autumn, reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2009. This year’s squad has the ingredients in place to be even better. While graduation took its toll (reigning Fall Female Athlete of the Year Emma Stehli was one of six players to depart), this group features skill and athleticism all over the field.
The offense will be sparked by Hoekstra and Johnson (an SMAA honorable mention in 2013), who both scored five times a year ago. Bolduc, Glover and Isabel Stehli will also be in the scoring mix, as will sophomore Hayleigh Blanchard, who battled injuries last fall, but could be primed to break out in the weeks to come. In the back, look for veterans Kirby, Smith and Wolfe, to hold down the fort in front of sophomore goakeeper Taylor Crosby. Sophomores Cassie Anderson and Rose Griffin are pushing Crosby for playing time and it’s likely all three will get an opportunity as the season progresses.
There’s a feeling of optimism around the Bulldogs, who produced some promising results in the preseason. Now, Portland has to go out and get the job done when it matters. If all goes well, Portland will be one of the feel-good stories of the 2014 campaign. Perhaps good enough to win a playoff game for the first time since 2008 and to post a winning record for the first time since 2009.
COACH: Beth Arsenault (15th year, 56-139-9 overall record)
2013 record: 3-11 (no postseason)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Georgia Drew (Senior), Meggie Parker (Senior), Gabby Wagabaza (Senior), Alysha Alling (Junior), Gianna Gaudet (Junior), Lauren McIntyre (Junior)
PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 15 SCARBOROUGH, Sept. 18 @ SP, Sept. 24 @ Westbrook, Oct. 6 @ Cheverus, Oct. 8 DEERING, Oct. 10 @ Gorham, Oct. 14 @ Marshwood
COACH’S COMMENT: “I like our outlook for this season. I’m actually returning 15 players to varsity which is very different from the past two years. While we lost some quality character in our seniors from the last few years, we did only lose nine over both years and that, along with the residuals of their leadership and influence, has left us with a pretty strong returning core of players who are quite battle-tested for a group that is still relatively young. This group has showed some nice commitment to the program and has worked hard together over the summer. We want to secure a spot in the postseason on our own merits and not be in a position to have to scoreboard watch and rely on the help of other teams. We have a lot of balance. We are fortunate to have impact players in all three positional areas of the field and with that, have gained some confidence that we can come out on the winning end of the kind of tight games that have traditionally not worked out for us.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Portland has been done in by slow starts the last couple years, but this team should be ready for the challenge from the get-go. The Bulldogs have the pieces in place to compete with just about everyone in the league.
Several different players look to pace the offense. That group includes Drew, who made the SMAA second-team in 2013, McIntyre, Wagabaza, seniors Natalia Budri, Becky Scott and Renata Serio and sophomore Taylor Sargent. Defensively, Alling (an honorable mention all-star a season ago) and Parker have experience and will be joined by senior Mariza Budri. Gaudet returns for her third year in goal.
Some early confidence-building wins would go a long way. If Portland get off to a fast start, look out, it might just be playoff-bound for the first time since 2011.
(BOYS) Dan Deniso (25th year)
(GIRLS) Sophie Payson-Rand (ninth year)
(BOYS) DNQ for states (10th @ Western A regionals)
(GIRLS) DNQ for states (11th @ Western A regionals)
TOP RETURNING RUNNERS:
(BOYS) Matt Bliss (Senior), Pat Sheils (Senior), Zach Taylor (Senior), Charles Winkelman (Senior), Ted Crockett (Junior), Ryan Lizanecz (Junior), Brad Ravenelle (Junior), Nate Tomascak (Junior), Matice Maino (Sophomore), Thomas Sheils (Sophomore), Fred Steinburg (Sophomore)
(GIRLS) Francesca Butterfield (Senior), Bea Hesselbart (Senior), Darcy Hinck (Senior), Hannah Mermin (Senior), Katherine Miller (Senior), Nellie Block (Junior)
TOP FOES: Cheverus, Deering, Massabesic, Scarborough, Windham boys; Cheverus, Deering, McAuley, South Portland, Windham girls
COACH DENISO’S COMMENT: “With the graduation of captains and standouts Ben Allen and Jake Morrow-Spitzer, Brad Ravenelle is our most capable runner to qualify for states on an individual basis. While we are middle-of-the-pack, there are some promising underclassman and newcomers. As always, our goal is to develop young athletes through the challenges and rewards of embracing training all aspects of the being through distance running and distance racing. This is a great group of young men.”
COACH PAYSON’S COMMENT: “I have a very experienced team this year with seven returning upperclassmen and three newcomers. This is the last season for eight of my 11 runners who have been with the team for several years, so our goals are twofold: to work our very hardest and to see personal bests from the returning runners, as well as to develop the team for seasons to come.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Portland’s cross country program will be heard from in the weeks to come.
The boys’ top returner is Ravenelle, who placed 52nd at last year’s regional meet. Pat Sheils (76th) and Winkelman (91st) also scored at that meet in 2013. The rest of the returners, along with new junior Ryan Donaldson and sophomore Alex Carter and Alex Ramsey, will look to fill slots and create a pack which could keep the Bulldogs competitive throughout the regular season and put them in position to qualify for the state meet for the first time since 2011.
On the girls’ side, three postseason scorers are back. Hinck was 49th at regionals a year ago, while Block came in 66th and Hesselbart placed 69th. Butterfield, Mermin and Miller are program veterans. Freshman Raven Bradenday will quickly make a name for herself. A couple other newcomers, senior Johanna Quinn and freshman Alice Kenny, will be heard from as well. It’s a small team, but talented, with good leadership (Hinck and Hesselbart are joined as captains by seniors Meredith Johnson and Katherine Miller). Portland could make a run at states, but just as important, the Bulldogs will look to get their younger runners experience with an eye toward 2015.
COACH: John LaFond (37th year, four state championships)
2013 results: 7-3 (no postseason)
TOP RETURNER: Phil McCallum (Junior)
TOP FOES: Cheverus, Falmouth
COACH’S COMMENT: “We’re very green. We’re only have one returning veteran, but we show potential. Hopefully by the end of September, we’ll have everything in place to make a run at qualifying for states.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Portland is coming off a very strong campaign, but was hit hard by graduation and has to start over in 2014. With that said, the Bulldogs have reason for optimism.
McCallum is experienced. He shot an 89 at last year’s SMAA qualifying meet and will be looked at for leadership in the weeks to come. A couple freshmen, Reed Foehl and Cam King, hope to make a quick impact.
Portland will be a work in progress and while it probably won’t match last year’s win total, it will be in the mix to turn heads and perhaps qualify for states.
Jordan Talbot is back under center for Portland and will make things happen with his arm and his legs.
Senior Jeremiah Copeland returns to help anchor both the offensive and defensive lines for Portland’s highly touted football team.
Senior Dom Fagone will step into a bigger role this season as a running back and cornerback.
John Williams returns as Portland’s placekicker.
Tim Baker had a strong freshman season and will look to make even more of an impact as a sophomore for the Portland boys’ soccer team.
Junior Sam Farr could be one of the SMAA’s top players this season.
Senior Haron Habibzai scored some key goals for the Bulldogs last season and will look to do so again this fall.
Junior Josh Irving also returns for the Bulldogs.
Senior Madison Bolduc will be a key leader and player for Portland’s girls’ team this season.
Junior Chessa Hoekstra was one of Portland’s top offensive threats a year ago and should make life miserable for the opposition again this fall.
Kate Johnson made a name for herself as a freshman and will pace Portland’s offense this fall.
Junior Isabel Stehli is another key returner for the Portland girls.
Junior Gianna Gaudet returns in goal for Portland’s field hockey team, which expects to contend for a playoff spot.
Senior Meggie Parker is another returning veteran for Portland’s field hockey squad.
Portland’s boys’ soccer team, sparked by junior goalie Bobby Brittingham, is focused on going one step further than last season.
More photos below.